1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Sweden to deport 'world's oldest refugee'

Nancy Isenson | Jared Reed
September 5, 2017

Sweden's immigration authorities have called for the deportation of a 106-year-old Afghan woman. Bibihal Uzbeki had a stroke after she heard her asylum bid had been denied.

Bibihal Uzbeki lies in bed in Hova, Sweden
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Keyton

@dwnews - Sweden denies 106-year-old woman asylum

Bibihal Uzbeki and her family arrived in Sweden in 2015 after fleeing their home in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, and making the difficult journey to Europe via Iran and Turkey.

Journalists dubbed her the "world's oldest refugee" after learning of her story in 2015, when the family was at the Opatovac refugee camp in Croatia.

Read more: Afghanistan: Sent back to a war zone

No future for Afghan deportees

In December the family was told their asylum requests had been rejected, while Uzbeki's case had not yet been decided. The Swedish Migration Authority rejected her asylum bid earlier this year.

At 106, Uzbeki now lives in the central Swedish town of Hova, sharing an apartment with 11 other members of her family, including grandchildren and her 68-year-old son Muhamadullah, who carried her on his back at times during the grueling trip to Europe.

She is nearly blind, bedridden and unable to communicate.

Mercy in short supply

Until the appeals process is exhausted, she will not be deported, the Swedish authorities told DW in an e-mail. They underlined that "in general when it comes to asylum, advanced age does not constitute grounds for protection," adding that in such cases it does take age, health and the circumstances in the home country into account.

The authorities referred to a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that established that Finland had not violated the human rights of an elderly person it had deported to Russia, because they had access to health care in Russia.

"New legislation allows much less breadth for granting residence on the basis of sickness," the officials said.

Sanna Vestin of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups said that the new legislation, which was enacted after the large influx of migrants in 2015 as a temporary measure, prevents the immigration authorities from showing more compassion. The goal was to minimize the number of  asylum-seekers bringing their family members to join them in Sweden.

"In a way," Vestin said in an e-mail, "you could say that the politicians have forbidden the Migration Agency to show mercy in cases like this."